pickling and canning and preserving or…what to do with green tomatoes.

I realized the other day that I had a lot of green tomatoes. My inner gardener knows they aren’t going to ripen in time. So this morning I harvested them.

I washed all of the green tomatoes and also harvested what was left of my chili peppers.

I then sorted them by size.

Meanwhile, I sterilized my canning jars.

Then I prepared the brine for the pickled tomatoes.

The brine wasn’t particularly complicated. It was pickling salt, pickling spices, extra mustard seed, a little bit of sugar, white vinegar, and water. I brought it up and left it on a low simmer.

Meanwhile I put a little bunch of fresh dill, a garlic clove, and some onion pieces in the base of each jar. To that I added the smaller tomatoes and the cherry tomatoes. And every jar also got a few chunks of cut up chili peppers.

The smaller tomatoes I either halved or quartered depending on the size, and the cherry tomatoes each got pierced from end to end like they were going to go on a skewer so the pickling brine is absorbed into them.

I ladled hot brine on top of each jar of green tomatoes. On top of that I laid another sprig of fresh dill and one more clove of garlic.

I then put the lids on the jars and placed them in a hot water bath for 14 minutes. The pickled tomatoes are now cooling on a table. When they are completely cool I will tighten down the lids and store them where I store other preserves in the basement.

Next comes the green tomato chutney. The brine pickling liquid that I use for this is comprised of a couple of cups of malt vinegar, pickling salt (but not much like a teaspoon and a half), 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon, a few tablespoons of diced crystallized ginger, nutmeg, a couple of tablespoons of mustard seed, a tablespoon of pickling spice, and allspice. To make it slightly different I also grated the rind of two limes I had and also added their juice.

I put that on low so the sugar dissolved add to that I added probably about 5 pounds of chopped green tomatoes, the remaining few chili peppers chopped up, five chopped fresh plums I had leftover, three chopped apples, one diced onion, I also added a little chopped fresh fennel I found had sprouted up in the garden because the chutney recipe calls for fennel seeds and I didn’t have any. Also, I added a little over a cup of golden yellow raisins as well. If I had had the green raisins I use with curry I would have added those as well.

I cooked the chutney down for about an hour maybe a little more, and then sterilized some more jars. I filled the chutney jars gave them their hot water bath and now they are cooling on the counter.

I still have green tomatoes left over unbelievably! I am guessing fried green tomatoes are in my future at some point.

I will note that I use the pickling salt for both the pickled tomatoes and the chutney because it keeps things from getting cloudy.

Happy Friday!

my franklinia tree is blooming

From the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Franklinia alatamaha, commonly called Franklin tree, typically grows as a single-trunk tree with a rounded crown or as a multi-stemmed shrub. As a single trunk tree, it can grow to 20’ tall or more, but is more often seen growing much shorter. Camellia-like, cup-shaped, 5-petaled, sweetly-fragrant, white flowers (to 3” diameter) bloom in late summer to early fall. Each flower sports a boss of egg-yolk yellow center stamens. Narrow, oblong-obovate, glossy dark green leaves (to 5” long) turn quality shades of orange, red and purple in autumn. John Bartram was appointed Royal Botanist for North America by King George III in 1765. In that same year, John Bartram and his son William discovered franklinia growing in a 2-3 acre tract along the banks of the Altamaha River in southeastern Georgia. Franklinia has never been observed growing in any other place than along the Altamaha River. In a return trip in 1773, William Bartram collected seed from this site and brought it back to the Bartram’s garden in Philadelphia where the tree was successfully grown. This tree has been extinct in the wild since 1803. It has been perpetuated in cultivation (all plants derive from the seed collected by Bartram) not only because of its rarity but also because of its attractive flowers and foliage. The current genetic base of this plant is quite narrow in large part because all plants currently in existence in the world come from the materials collected by the Bartrams. Franklinia belongs to the tea family and is closely related to Stewartia and Gordonia (loblolly bay). It is not known why this tree disappeared in the wild. Land along the Altamaha River was cleared for cotton plantations leading to one theory that a cotton pathogen found in the soil (carried downstream through erosion) was the main cause of the extinction of the colony. Other extinction theories include decline from climate change, destruction by man, single colony of plants was not genetically diverse enough to withstand pathogens or changing conditions, or a local disaster (flood or fire).

Genus name honors Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American printer, scientist, philosopher and statesman.

Specific epithet name has an extra “a” in it (apparently because of an alternate spelling for the river when the tree was named).

I love Franklinia trees. My old neighbor Johnny had one…until a drunk driver drove up onto his lawn and front garden and bulldozed it down. His tree was about 12 feet tall and I remember at the time the insurance adjusters from both sides didn’t see it as a big deal.

To a plant lover, it was a big deal.

It was. Franklinia trees are notoriously hard to grow, so once you get one established you celebrate the lovely little tree discovered by John Bartram and named in dedication of Benjamin Franklin.

It’s root system makes it persnickety and this is a tree that hates being moved or transplanted. Which means when you find the perfect spot in your garden, it must stay there.

Where mine is planted I wasn’t sure how it would fare. This was a bed I reclaimed from the crazy forsythia that tried to swallow parts of our property whole for 50 years or better. Yes off on a tangent, but I hate forsythia with a burning passion. It should be labeled an invasive plant.

But I digress.

When I reclaimed this particular planting area and one immediately adjacent I started with digging out as much forsythia as possible. Then there was the soil to deal with. This area of my gardens has heavy clay content. So bags of sand, bags of grit, leaf mold, mushroom soil, dehydrated manure, green sand, gypsum.

And I am still adding amendments every year at this point and still digging out forsythia. This week alone when I was planting two Bayberry bushes in the right corner of this bed, I had to amend the soil again and I dug out more forsythia and two five to six foot sections of root that were as wide as my wrist!

Franklinia trees like well drained soil. As per Fine Gardening:

Grow in organically rich, moist but very well-drained soil of acidic to neutral pH, in full sun. Resents transplanting and should not be disturbed in the landscape.

My Franklinia tree seems to be growing well with red rhododendrons, hydrangeas, a pair of blueberry bushes and various herbs and perennials. This is it’s first year to bloom since I bought it at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia. Could I have bought it elsewhere? Probably but it seemed fitting to literally buy it from the source.

My tree came from Bartram’s Garden spring plant sale. There is a fall plant sale at their upcoming honey festival September 8th from 10 am to 4 pm.

I had been watching my Franklinia tree bud for a couple of weeks and this morning I went to take a peek and the lovely soft white flowers are starting to open. My tree is small so I am so happy it is happy and blooming.

And that is the thing about gardening: how happy these small triumphs after lots of hard work make you feel.

Enjoy the day! It’s beautiful outside with a nice little breeze.

rose obelisks are in place!!

I love my David Austin English Roses. But even the ones which are NOT climbers are truly vigorous growers. The ones I chose ALL seem to have a very rangy growth habit.

I started out a few years ago with fleur de lis trellises from Achla Designs. They come in two sizes.

For a couple of years they worked nicely. But the roses outgrew them completely. And I do prune my roses.

So these trellises have been moved to assist other plants. They are brilliant to stake tomatoes with, especially if you grow tomatoes in large pots like I do. They give this tepee shape which beans and tomatoes like.

I hunted for obelisks for a while. Some seem quite flimsy and others overly expensive.

I settled on the Jardin Round Obelisks from Gardener’s Supply Company.

I assembled the first one during a heatwave. Big mistake. Mostly for me wrestling with a large rose bush in the heat.

You have to put it on a section at a time as it comes in pieces. But as is the case with trial and error, I learned after assembling the first one that I needed to basically tie up the rosebushes as much as possible with garden tape. (It’s made out of green vinyl, and I use it for things that I stake or need to have tied during the growing season.)

The first obelisk I put together still seems a little wobbly to me and I need a good soaking rain to push it down into the ground more.

But I have now assembled four of these obelisks and I did have to trim my roses back (and some canes broke too) to get them on but now they have more freedom growing through these and are less restricted as was the case with the trellises I was using.

I really like the uniformity they present in the garden and I think they add a nice element. They also are not going to drive me crazy having to look at them in the winter when nothing is growing.

I will be honest and say it took me 2 1/2 or 3 hours to assemble and place three of these yesterday. (and if you buy them make sure you are wearing gauntlet gloves when assembling them and wrestling with the rose bushes to place them!)

I also had another kind obelisk thing I tried that was shorter and more squat that also came from Gardener’s Supply that was an epic fail. It arrived defective and missing parts and it’s a little finial top didn’t even fit the thread it was assigned to. It’s called the Jardin Birdcage Support. Save your money and don’t order it. It’s cheaply made and went into the recycling.

Of course in the middle of all of this I discovered a rabbit’s nest under a shrub. I wasn’t looking for the nest they literally started screaming at me because I was too close to the nest. And yes baby bunnies sure can holler!

Gardening is always an adventure!

Now that the temperatures are becoming more temperate it’s time to get back to the business of weeding and cleaning up my flowerbeds. Because fall planting season is just around the corner.

Happy gardening!

summer sauce

I made this yesterday and everyone keeps asking for the recipe. There isn’t one per se but here’s how it evolved:

2 lbs of ground sausage sautéed in olive oil with 2 sweet onions, 6 mild/medium chili peppers, 2 long hot peppers, 5 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes from the garden halved, sea salt to taste.

Next I added a huge handful each of fresh basil and oregano from the garden and a 10 ounce package of fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms chopped up.

Cook on medium low and stir a lot until sausage is cooked through.

Add two cans (28 ounce) of canned tomatoes- what I had on hand was crushed, add 1 small can of tomato paste (6 ounce size), and a good dash of red wine or red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Reduce heat and allow to burble on the stove, stirring frequently for at least another hour. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. I didn’t find it needed it.

This is the kind of sauce that if I had fresh eggplant, that would have been peeled and chopped up and added as well.

It’s not complicated and it’s easy to make your own homemade sauce. The chili peppers came out of the garden as well and the end result was a flavorful but NOT a spicy sauce. It just tastes fresh. It will be dinner later this week over spaghetti or some shape pasta. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.

Easy summer dinner.

Leftover sauce can be frozen.

trying my hand at rooting from cuttings

Have you been outside this morning? It’s so humid you can cut it with a knife.

I did a little bit of gardening early this morning and had the sprinkler set up for a while on newer beds I had planted, like the one where my Franklinia Tree is growing. My Franklinia Tree is getting ready to bloom for the first time so the bed around is getting extra special treatment.

I also took a bit of a wander because plants for fall planting are already here. I have to baby them through the next heat wave and then I will begin to plot their planting locations.

Also this morning I decided to try my hand at propagating cuttings. I chose hydrangeas.

I took two cuttings from my mystery blue lacecap that was an end of season $5 buy at a grocery store a few years ago. It never had a tag and I have never seen it since.

I also took two cuttings from my Korean Mountain Hydrangea. They came originally from Lazy S Farm in Virginia. The owners retired and the nursery was sadly closed down. I used to get the most wonderful plants from them. They also introduced me to Indian Pinks. Anyway, I have not been able to specifically find Korean Mountain Hydrangea anywhere since, so hopefully I can grow my own.

I had a lovely English clay pot that until this morning housed a basil plant until I chucked it. It had gotten pot bound and unlovely so into the brush pile it went. I have loads more basil so it was fine to sacrifice that particular plant.

I put half compost and half organic potting soil into the pot, roughed up the stems of the Hydrangea slightly and plunked them in.

I don’t know if they will take given we’re about to get another heatwave, but they’re in a shady spot on the porch and had a drink of water with seaweed extract in it. I am hoping for the best!

I still have a lot of gardening this season ahead of me. But the heatwave that’s creeping in means a time out. Then it will be time to first tackle weeding and deadheading.

Stay cool!

a sigh of relief from the frustrated gardener….

The hydrangeas just keep on going

When I woke up this morning I thought I was imagining things. The temperature read 62°F. I actually took my glasses off and washed them!

Yesterday I had reached the I-don’t-love -my garden-as-much stage of the summer. This summer has been a bumpy garden ride in spite of all of the lovely blooms. And a hell of a lot of work.

My one Japanese Maple continues to struggle with heat stress and the leaves on it when they went, shriveled up overnight. The tree is still alive but only time will tell if it lives.

Heat stressed Japanese Maple ☹️

I lost one yellow rhododendron to too much rain in the spring, and it’s mate is also suffering from heat stroke along with the maple.

Heat stressed yellow rhododendron ☹️

And no, the rhododendron has no disease this is all weather related. There was so much rain in the spring and then there was rain and heat and humidity and more unrelenting heat this summer. I had several rhododendrons show stress but they are all recovering. This one will not. So in the fall, when my next plants arrive something will replace it.

And then there is public enemy number 1. Mother F-ing spotted lanternfly. I really wish we could send whoever imported it in the first place thank you notes. Actually I’d like to send them the bill from my arborist is more like it.

I had my trees and things the lanternfly like treated in the spring. So we have had a lot of dead lanternflies which makes me happy. However essentially no one around us treated their trees for lanternflies. So now I’m seeing more lanternflies.

Public Enemy Number 1; Spotted Lanternfly

And people are all convinced that home remedies are going to rid us of this bug. OK hairspray doesn’t work. Vinegar doesn’t work is caustic so if you want to burn the eyes of your birds, hurt other wildlife and beneficial insects, and damage plants spray vinegar, don’t let me stop you. I love the people that don’t want to use chemicals on their property don’t get that these are also chemicals!

Preliminary testing and results from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture indicates that insecticides with the active ingredients dinotefuran, imidacloprid, carbaryl, and bifenthrin are effective at controlling the spotted lanternfly.

I treat my trees and shrubs and protect them anyway. It ended up that the 12 month Bayer brand systemic granular for trees and shrubs and the Bayer systemic for roses contain all or most of these chemicals. But my larger heritage trees and others I had to have treated professionally. I don’t like spraying so I chose injecting and drench.

But again, since everyone around me isn’t doing it, I have reduced the problem but not eliminated it. But that is like my frustration with people who do not develop plans that include routine tree maintenance with legitimate arborists. They don’t want to spend the money, and then when they have trees die they end up spending twice the money. But hey what do I know, right?

I discovered that this hideous spotted lanternfly likes rose bushes and my chili pepper plants and grapefruit tree. They also have been hanging around my beloved willow tree. As the chili peppers have matured they leave the plants alone.

The only thing short of squashing them other than chemicals professionally applied is I think there is something to be said about the nymphs dying from being sprayed with a spray bottle filled with seaweed extract and water. That is the only “home” remedy I have seen that has had any success. But the adult spotted lanternfly only seems to get stunned by being sprayed with seaweed extract so then I can stomp them to death. These bugs seem to hop more than they fly but they’re tough and you have to stomp hard to kill the adults. They’re disgusting. Someone at Mt.Cuba told another friend about the seaweed spray trick.

This morning’s cooler temperatures are a taste of what is to come. You can already tell the seasons are poised to change. How much change will occur I’m not sure. Because every year it now seems a little different because yes we are experiencing climate change.

My garden could use some cooler temperatures. And I really have to get to my weeding. It had been so hot and humid I could only do so much. And that is one reason why this is I don’t love my garden time of year. The height of summer heat can be a very frustrating gardening time.

But then I see things like the perfect red zinnia I finally was able to grow and I smile. I have decided not to deadhead all of my coneflowers or zinnias so I can get seeds. And I will share the seeds with my birds.

And knock on wood, so far so good with the tomatoes. The ones that look the best are the ones I am growing in pots.

When fall arrives, I have a long list of chores including wrestling with two of the larger rosebushes to get obelisks on them.

But for now I’m just going to look at my zinnias and hydrangeas. I also have some new rose blooms starting.

Thanks for stopping by.

august and garden chores

David Austin Rose “Mary Rose”

It’s August. August in the garden in general means early mornings, pace yourself, and you can only do so much.

As I get older I have a hard time with humidity. So until this morning I have not been out in the garden very much in the last week or so. The combination of hot and humid has left the garden somewhat bedraggled.

I got out there in the garden early this morning because I had to focus the sprinkler on specific planting beds – because if you don’t get up and do the sprinkler early it’s useless the water just evaporates as the heat of the day sets in.

I also had to check out a Japanese maple which is suffering from heat stress. I can only pray at this point that the plant will make it and it looks so awful because one day it was beautiful red and healthy and the next day the leaves started to look shriveled and shrunken

I had forgotten the Japanese maples in fact have a widespread but fairly shallow root system. I did have a Japanese maple do this decades ago and I thought it was a goner and cut it down and it sent up new shoots from the roots the following spring. So I am going to leave the tree be and see what happens next spring. Hopefully Mother Nature will be kind to me.

Today was also a day to deal with my roses. I love them and always have. Today was the last drench of systemic feed, systemic insecticide, and systemic disease control for the season. Depending on how things go it will also probably not be a bad idea for me to give them a drink with seaweed extract and a little Epsom salts and or pulverized banana peels in a week or so.

People like to get all uptight about chemicals. I am a cancer survivor I use them judiciously. Roses and other shrubs and trees need them once in a while especially now that we have to deal with the spotted lantern fly (which in nymph form does like roses.)

I use the Bayer 3 in 1 Rose and Flower Care on my roses. It contains the three chemicals that are found to kill spotted lantern fly after they ingest it.

Bayer does not compensate me in any way for mentioning this product. I mention it because I use it. In spring when the roses get their first dose I use the granular version. From June forward I use the drench. I will note that I do not really spray for bugs or disease since I use this product.

The seaweed-type fertilizer I use is Irish Organic Fertilizer. It has the sea weed but it also has goodness from Irish peat bogs. Humic Acid and Moor Water blended with organic seaweed. (Read more about it HERE.) I will also note I use this inside with houseplants as well all year round. Orchids in particular love it.

I was a test garden for this Irish Organic Fertilizer when it first was introduced here in the United States a couple of years ago, but I buy it all year round at this point. I buy it off of Amazon.

Back to my roses. All in all, in spite of the weather it has been a lovely year for roses. I have some I thought were dead that I basically put in little corners of my garden where I have plant infirmaries, and today I had to add a rose obelisk to one because it had recovered so nicely!

While I was out with my roses, I not only weeded around the base of all of them, but I did some deadheading and I also did some pruning to remove some canes that were causing issue with airflow in the middle of my rosebushes, and/or didn’t look so hot.

One problem I have a constant battle with in this garden are rose borers. And when I cut a cane I seal the top with one of two things: nail polish or wood glue. Yes nail polish.

David Austin Rose “Benjamin Britton”

My new roses that I planted this spring are all doing really well. The champion grower is the David Austin English Rose Benjamin Britton. It is a vigorous and gorgeous rose!

The rugosa roses I planted which were antique and old garden rugosas are coming along. The one I purchased from Antique Rose Emporium in Texas called Mary Manners is the most vigorous so far. It bloomed once in a couple of spots when it was tiny and now it has sent out a lot of growth and next year will be fabulous. It was a vigorous grower when I had it in my parents’ garden decades ago.

David Austin Rose “James L. Austin”

The other rugosas I planted at the rear of the berm bed that runs down the side of the driveway came from Heirloom Roses in Oregon. Blanc Double de Coubert (another vigorous grower that I had in my parents’ garden years and years ago) and Bayse’s Purple Rose are also growing really nicely and I can’t wait for next year!

I chose old rugosa roses because like most old and antique roses they are very disease-resistant and they are so thorny the deer don’t like them yet they are habitats as they grow for other animals like birds. The berm bed rugosa roses will eventually help me back the rear of the bed and next year I hope to add more old or antique roses at the back of that berm. I have my eye on Madame Hardy and Comte de Chambourd.

A white David Austin rose “Winchester Cathedral”

The found rose I planted from Antique Rose Emporium has also been terrific. I have been getting its name wrong all summer so I looked it up on their website. Caldwell Pink and I highly recommend it. It is an old rose and it has been blooming nonstop all summer. It gets these little button size carnation pink blooms that smell heavenly. It is called a found rose because they’re not really sure where it came from but it was found in a little town called Caldwell, Texas.

I should probably note that the roses I plant are not only bare root they are own root. I have mentioned this before because when you pay to buy own root roses they are not grown on root stock. They are grown and on their own root and might be smaller when they arrive but you will have in my opinion a much healthier vigorous plant as time goes on.

I will admit I kind of ignored my roses as it got really hot except for occasional deadheading. And they survived. They either got watered by torrential downpours or when I set the sprinkler. During the worst of the heat I gave everybody a little bit of Epsom salts. I do that about three times during the growing season but you have to be careful how much you use because you don’t want to upset the mineral balance in your soil.

A lot of people in the US when they plant roses plant them in sort of standalone beds. Often it’s only roses in a particular flower bed. I look at roses a little differently. I plant them in the English and Irish style. In other words, my roses are in among the rest of my plants.

My style of gardening is easiest described as cottage garden with shade and woodland garden beds. I definitely have a layered garden and it is also turning into a very nice four seasons garden.

My favorite kinds of gardens are the ones that hold your interest in the middle of winter just like they do in the middle of June. I don’t know if that makes sense to a lot of people but that’s what I like. I like having something to look at 12 months of the year.

Now that the last leg of summer has arrived I pretty much do maintenance until the fall. I have not religiously deadheaded things like coneflowers (echinaceas) and hostas and even bee balm (monarda). I have done some deadheading but a lot of it I have just let Mother Nature take her course.

As a lot of the hydrangea blooms fade and die I will trim them because that’s the way you keep the bushes in check. That little bit of deadheading you do really helps keep the size of hydrangeas to where you can deal with them. The one exception to that rule are my Oakleaf hydrangeas on the edge of the woods on the far side of the deck. I rarely prune those. I love their wild look on the edge of the woods.

I know a lot of people are feeling discouraged in their garden this time of year. August is tough. And what makes it more difficult is we are experiencing climate change. So the extremes have been really extreme the past couple of summers.

But don’t lose hope, Garden a little bit at a time and soon it will be September and the temperatures will get a little more even.

Thanks for stopping by!

David Austin Rose “England’s Rose”